Cannabis & the Immune System: A Complex Balancing Act

A new wave of research points toward cannabinoids having an adaptive, immunomodulating effect.

Cannabis sativa has been consumed for health and nutritional purposes for thousands of years. Many ancient civilizations – from the Chinese to the Greeks – included cannabis in their pharmacopoeia. Back then, no one questioned how or why cannabis relieved pain and calmed the spirits. It was a helpful ally – that’s all that mattered.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Scientists are trying to understand not only the molecular makeup of cannabis, but also how it interacts with the complex web of biological systems in our bodies. Yet, despite many exciting discoveries, we still know relatively little, especially when it comes to the interplay between cannabis and the immune system.

Some studies suggest that cannabinoids like THC and CBD are immunosuppressant, which can explain the relief experienced by medical cannabis users with autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation. Other studies have shown that regular cannabis use can increase white blood cell counts in immunodeficiency disorders such as HIV, suggesting an immune-boosting effect.

It gets even more complicated when we consider that the effects of cannabis are mediated primarily by the endocannabinoid system, which scientists believe interacts with all biological activity, including our immune system.

The bottom line is that much remains to be discovered about how cannabis affects our immune system. Here’s some of what we know so far.

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Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects

From 2010

By Bryan Perkins (Source)

“The recent discovery that the hippocampus is able to generate new neurons throughout a human’s lifespan has changed the way we think about the mechanisms of psychiatric disorders and drug addiction,” says Wen Jian and colleagues in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2005.

It appears that cannabinoids are able to modulate pain, nausea, vomiting, epilepsy, ischemic stroke, cerebral trauma, multiple sclerosis, tumors, and many other disorders.

Cannabinoids act on two types of receptors, the CB1 receptors (found mainly in the brain) and the CB2 receptors (found mainly in the immune system). The CB1 receptor is one of the most abundant G protein coupled receptors in the mammalian brain and it accounts for most, if not all, of the centrally mediated effects of cannabinoids. Cannabionoid receptors are evolutionarily conserved among various vertebrates and invertebrates which have been separate for 500 million years.

Hippocampal neurogenesis is suppressed following chronic administration of the major drugs of abuse (including opiates, alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine). However, CB1-knockout mice display significantly decreased hippocampal neurogenesis, suggesting that CB1 receptors activated by endogenous, plant-derived, or synthetic cannabinoids may promote hippocampal neurogenesis.

Wen Jiang and colleagues have given the first evidence suggesting that both embryonic and adult hippocampal neural stem/progenitor cells (NS/PCs) express CB1 receptors. Cannabinoids can regulate the proliferation of hippocampal NS/PCs by acting on CB1 receptors. They found that both the synthetic cannabinoid HU210 and the endocannabinoid anandamide profoundly promote embryonic hippocampal NS/PC proliferation.

Chronic, but not acute, HU210 significantly increases the number of newborn hippocampal neurons in adult rats by promoting NS/PC proliferation. These promoting effects are not the outcome of hippocampal neuronal death, as no neuronal loss or dying hippocampal neurons were detected following chronic HU210 injection. A significant increase was observed in the hipoppocampal newborn neurons of mice following twice-daily HU210 injection for 10 days.

It has been shown that acute, high doses of cannabinoids produce anxiety-like effects in rats and depression-like effects in mice. But chronic administration of high, but not low, doses of HU210 exerts anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects. This suggests that cannabinoids are the only illicit drug that can promote adult hippocampal neurogenesis following chronic administration. “This increase in hippocampal neurogenesis underlies the mechanism of anxiolytic- and andtidepressant-like effects produced by a high dose chronic HU210 treatment.”

Source: Jiang W, Zhang Y, Xiao L, Cleemput JV, Ji S-P, Bai G, & Zhang X (2005). Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 115, 3104-3116

Study Shows That THC Benefits Are Greater Than CBD’s

thc benefits
Written by Alexandra Hicks

Cannabidiol, more commonly referred to simply as CBD, has been getting a lot of attention in the media and medical world lately.

CBD is everywhere, and with good reason. It’s been proven to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, inflammation, pain, and many other conditions. But when it comes to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), things get a little quieter. Since this is the psychoactive component in the cannabis plant (the cannabinoid that produces the “high”), people tend to demonize it and overlook its medical potential. However, a recent study indicates that THC might have even more therapeutic benefits than CBD.

THC benefits are greater than what we used to believe before

The study was conducted by Psychology Associate Professor Jacob Miguel Vigil and Economics Assistant Professor Sarah See Stith, both from the University of New Mexico. It was published on Tuesday, February 26, in the Scientific Reports Journal. According to their research, “THC exhibited the strongest correlation with therapeutic relief, compared to the more socially acceptable chemical found in cannabis, CBD (cannabidiol).”

thc benefits

Enter a THC vs CBD – Turns out THC can holds its own when it comes to medical benefits

They measured 27 different symptom categories ranging from depression to seizure activity and found that dried cannabis flower high in THC provided immediate symptom relief in most of the cases. Overall, smokable high-THC flower was the most commonly used product and showed greater symptom improvement than other methods of consumption. They gathered this information through the Releaf App, the largest database tracking medical cannabis use in the country.

“Despite the conventional wisdom, both in the popular press and much of the scientific community that only CBD has medical benefits while THC merely makes one high, our results suggest that THC may be more important than CBD in generating therapeutic benefits. In our study, CBD appears to have little effect at all, while THC generates measurable improvements in symptom relief. These findings justify the immediate de-scheduling of all types of cannabis, in addition to hemp, so that cannabis with THC can be more widely accessible for pharmaceutical use by the general public,” said Vigil.

While it may seem like groundbreaking news – and in a way it definitely is – this is something that cannabis users have been saying for a very long time. The study authors do warn that there are risks of impairment and the therapeutic effects might not be the same for everyone. However, this speaks volumes to the fact that THC (or rather, all legitimate products and compounds related to the cannabis plant) can have many benefits and should be decriminalized and studied.

Credit: CBD Testers